In preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Big Cat Country’s Gus Logue and I sat down for a short Q&A for one another’s publications.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
The back-to-back losses against backup quarterbacks were pretty rough. Jacksonville’s defense isn’t communicating and playing together as well as they were to start the season, though injuries to the secondary (Tyson Campbell, Andre Cisco, Tre Herndon) haven’t helped. Jaguars linebackers are flying around to try to clean up the mess, but that’s left Jacksonville susceptible to play action passes. On such plays, Cincinnati’s Jake Browning completed 8 of 10 attempts for 114 yards in Week 13 before Cleveland’s Joe Flacco went 8-for-12 for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Week 14.
2. The Jaguars rank No. 8 for defensive DVOA. What are the strengths of this defense? Are there weaknesses? Where might the Ravens be able to exploit them?
The strength is run defense — Jacksonville ranks second in success rate allowed on the ground this season. Their motto is, “Stop the run, have more fun.” As in, if they win on early downs, the pass rush will have an easier time on late downs. So it’ll be imperative for the Ravens to stay ahead on schedule and not get too far behind the sticks.
An area where the Ravens could exploit the Jaguars is on man-blocking concepts. According to Sports Info Solutions, Jacksonville ranks 1st in EPA per play allowed against zone runs but 31st against gap runs; Baltimore is third in usage of gap runs and Gus Edwards is top-10 in attempts, yards, and success rate on such plays.
3. The Jaguars will be without wide receiver Christian Kirk on Sunday. What did he do best for the Jaguars offense? How will the Jaguars try to mitigate his absence?
Kirk is best at being a safety blanket for Trevor Lawrence, especially on late downs with pressure coming. It’s fair to wonder if Kirk is worth the contract he signed with Jacksonville, but when you watch the chemistry he has with the franchise quarterback, it’s hard to understate his impact. Evan Engram will continue to step up in Kirk’s absence as a trusted short-yard target for Lawrence, while sixth-round rookie Parker Washington and return specialist Jamal Agnew will share snaps out of the slot. That said, Travis Etienne and Calvin Ridley especially need to turn in big performances on Sunday night.
4. Who are two Jaguars players (one offense/on defense) Ravens fans should pay specific attention to in this game that aren’t household names?
On offense, center Luke Fortner is one to watch. He was taken 40 spots after Tyler Linderbaum in last year’s draft, and he needs a good game on the ground to help Travis Etienne get going against Baltimore’s talented DT duo. On defense, veteran slot corner Tre Herndon is expected to make his return from concussion protocol. He’s an underrated aspect of Jacksonville’s entire defense, not just against the pass, thanks to his ability to fit the run and blitz off the edge.
5. The line for this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, is Ravens -3.5. Do you agree with the Ravens being this sizable of road favorites? What are your thoughts?
I’m a little bit surprised the Ravens aren’t favored by another point or two, to be honest. The Jaguars have been good at bouncing back from adversity under Doug Pederson, but with so many players (including Trevor Lawrence) ailing from injuries, this team doesn’t seem to have what it takes to compete with the NFL’s best. The Ravens have been my Super Bowl pick since the spring so I expect a Baltimore Beatdown on Sunday Night Football.